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When is ignorance bliss?

Greg Devine


Depressed young woman holding hand on chin and looking at camera while her boyfriend talking on the mobile phone at outdoors restaurant

On my morning commute, I enjoy listening to my favourite radio show, Capital Breakfast. On Tuesdays, the programme includes a segment known as ‘Kemp’s Court’. Essentially, the presenter, Roman Kemp, and his colleagues address a listener’s problem and decide what ‘sentence’ should be imposed. Members of the audience also call in with their opinions before Kemp makes the final decision.

The problems and topics discussed are typically quite trivial; however, today’s was much more gritty. A woman, whilst visiting a spa, spotted her best friend’s husband. Her first thought was, ‘Great! My friend must be here, too.’ She messaged her pal, only to discover she wasn’t at the spa at all, and that, as far as she was aware, neither was her husband. It later transpired that he was having an affair.

The woman wasn’t sure how she should handle the situation. Should she tell her best friend that her husband was being disloyal, or should she keep out of their business? The radio presenters were split down the middle, but Kemp decided the best course of action was to give the cheating husband an ultimatum: either you tell her, or I will.

I don’t think the presenters even considered the wife in the situation. Yes, she should be told, but is ignorance bliss, as they say? I’m a big believer in the saying: sometimes, we really do not need to know everything.

For example, if a close friend was out drinking and they said some stupid things about me that they didn’t really mean, I’m quite happy to never find out what they said. If it was something they did feel strongly about, then no doubt it would eventually come out anyway.

I think ignorance is bliss when it comes to break ups. This is something I’m currently going through, having recently come out of a relationship. The last thing I would want to know is what my ex-girlfriend is doing. Of course, I hope she’s okay, and I wouldn’t ever want her to be in a bad place, but what she’s up to is no longer an issue I need to consider.

Thinking about such things will just bring you a bucketful of stress. It can be quite unhealthy to constantly worry about what other people are doing, especially if those people are not a priority in your life anymore. Your main priority, wherever possible, should be you.

There are exceptions, of course, such as if you’re a parent. Even if this is the case, you should make sure your own mental health is robust enough to help others without it having a negative impact on your wellbeing.

Rear view of man cheating on woman in park

Rear view of man cheating on woman in park

I asked round the office for opinions on the dilemma featured on Kemp’s show. One colleague said that, if you’re somebody who’s relatively smart, your mental health will be more heavily impacted, because you will naturally overthink situations (I don’t necessarily agree with this). If this was the case, they said, ignorance would definitely be bliss.

The majority said they would want to know what was happening if they were the wife. However, just because they all wanted to know doesn’t mean they would respond in the same way. Some said that the knowledge of infidelity would mean they’d leave their partner, as the trust would be gone. Another opinion was that they’d consider an open relationship if the love was still there, and it was simply something else that was missing in the relationship, e.g. physical intimacy.

Across the pond, I’m sure the people around Kanye West wish he could live in blissful ignorance. His divorce from Kim Kardashian is going anything but smoothly. He seems to be really struggling with her moving on, given that she’s in a relationship with comedian Pete Davidson. I want to feel sorry for him, as their whole relationship is in the public eye. He can’t avoid seeing what Kim is up to; everybody wants to know the status of their relationship and it’s impossible for him to hide away from it. However, his reaction to the situation has been completely unacceptable—a quick Google search will tell you what’s happened. His disrespect for, and abhorrent comments about, Pete has eradicated any sympathy I may have had for him.

Whether ignorance is a good thing is not exclusive to relationships. You can find out so much about current events just by scrolling through Twitter. Whether it’s all true or not, we have access to lots of information in 2022 that we wouldn’t have been privy to during previous decades. Such news can be quite gruesome; this is certainly the case with regards to the current conflict in Ukraine.

I feel the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and there is no real right or wrong answer; it’s very situational. When it comes to a relationship, it’s probably better to know where you stand at all times. With regards to the original dilemma, of course the wife needs to know; it’s not fair that she’s unaware she has an unfaithful husband. What she chooses to do with that information is up to her, though. Ultimately, I do think ignorance can be bliss, but I also believe we should have the choice about whether we wish to be ignorant to something or not.

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